North Korea calls South Korea on hotline for first time in two years

North Korea phoned South Korea over the bilateral "hotline" for the first time in two years Wednesday. The conversation follows expressed statements by both nations' leaders to improve tensions and despite increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the Trump administration over North Korea's nuclear-weapons program.
By Rick Docksai | Jan 08, 2018
North Korea phoned South Korea over the nations' official hotline Wednesday, marking the first hotline conversation between the two Koreas since 2015. The move, which analysts suggest may mark a thaw in North-South relations, came about amid continuously combative rhetorical exchanges between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong In.

Both nations' leaders have stated a desire for easing tensions. North Korea's leader called for improved relations with South Korea in a New Year's Day address, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in has proposed holding in-person talks January 9 at the border village of Panmunjom. A formal gathering between the two Koreas has not taken place since 2015, either.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha discussed recent developments with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after the meeting. Kyung-wha issued a media statement affirming that he and Tillerson are committed to peacefully resolving the North Korean nuclear issue through "watertight" cooperation.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, have expressed little to no interest in dialogue with North Korea. Trump administration spokespersons said that Trump distrusts Kim and is unwilling to make any friendly overtures lest Kim interpret them as a softening of U.S. efforts to pressure North Korea into ceasing development of nuclear weapons.

"We are very skeptical of Kim Jong Un's sincerity in sitting down and having talks," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington.

Wednesday's hotline call also shortly precedes this year's Winter Olympics, which will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February. As the location is only 50 miles from the North-South border, the standoff over North Korea's nuclear pursuits have threatened to hang over the games.

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